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Piazza del Popolo

The Piazza del Popolo is one of Rome's most beautiful squares, with an important and long-standing history.

TravelCurious Tip

Stop here for a rest after shopping on the adjoining Via del Corso.

Popular poplars

The Piazza del Popolo is one of Rome’s most ancient squares. Its name translates as the Peoples’ Square, but the original derivation comes from the poplar trees that once covered the area. While a bit out of the way of the city centre, it is conveniently near to Galleria Borghese and the Villa Borghese Gardens, making for a wonderful day out.

The famous Porta del Popolo, a decorative gated archway at the northern end of the Piazza, is an ancient Roman gate which used to be known as the Porta Flaminia. The Porta Flaminia was the most northern gateway in the ancient Roman city and led on to the most important route to northern Italy, the Via Flaminia. It was the first view travellers would have had of Rome, before the invention of railways.

Old masters

The Porta del Popolo is set amidst the old Aurelian Walls, which were built in the third century AD and which enclosed the Seven Hills of Rome. Tucked away in the northern corner, just inside the Porta del Popolo, is the impressive Basilica of Santa Maria del Popolo, an Augustinian church built in 1099 which houses an astounding array of masterpieces by some of Rome’s most notable artists. Raphael, Bernini and Caravaggio are just some of the big names who have lent their talent to the interior decoration; a Museum of Leonardo Da Vinci is also located beside the church.

The modern Piazza was designed by Giuseppe Valadier in the early 1800s. It is a wide open square with two ornate fountains on either side which are flanked in a semicircle by a line of sphinxes, ending in two statues of gods or goddesses. This semicircular frame replaced the earlier trapezoidal shape and gave the space a more cohesive feel with a central focus. In the middle of the Piazza is the colossal ancient Egyptian obelisk of Seti I or the Flaminio Obelisk, adorned with four lion fountains: the obelisk was removed from Heliopolis to Rome in 10 BC after the Romans conquered Egypt, and is one of the oldest Egyptian monuments in the city.

Nearby Attractions

See all attractions in Rome
Trevi Fountain
A beautiful Baroque fountain, built at the end of an ancient Roman aqueduct.
Spanish Steps
Once you climb Europe’s longest outdoor stairs, enjoy a beautiful vista of Rome with St Peter's Basilica in the distance.
Castel Sant'Angelo
The former tomb of the emperor Hadrian is now an imposing fortress full of Papal history.
Villa Borghese Gardens
A vast and lovely scenic public park, adjoining the Borghese gallery.
The Basilica of Santa Maria del Popolo
One of Rome's most interesting churches, displaying work by its most famous artists.
Caravaggio
An artist who heavily influenced Baroque painting whose pieces are found all around Rome.

Related Tours

Caravaggio Private Walking Tour inc Tickets: Life and Work of A Genius
Go on an outstanding tour of Caravaggio's finest works in Rome, and delve into his troubled but brilliant soul.

  • Explore the stunning Contarelli Chapel, next to Caravaggio’s residence in the city.
  • Admire some of the artist’s most famous work at the San Luigi dei Francesi and Cerasi Chapel.
  • See famous Caravaggio’s work that was inspired by St Peter and St Paul. 
Few people’s lives have involved the same blend of mystery, murder and genius as the the master Caravaggio. On this tour you will see his best work, learn about the interesting stories of his life and be transported back to Rome at the time. First, you will see the stories of St. Matthew come to life in the Contarelli Chapel in San Luigi dei Francesi. You will appreciate Caravaggio’s stunning style and get to compare his work to that of his mentor at the time.

The tour continues at your own pace through Campo Marzio, the neighbourhood where Caravaggio killed a man in 1606; your tour guide will tell the full story of this dramatic episode of his life. You will also be taken through the Piazza de Popolo, the elegant square that is home to the Saint Mara del Popolo – where you will find Caravaggio’s Vocation of Saint Paul; and the Crucifixion of Saint Peter in the Cerasi Chapel.
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